Graphical representation of Media Development

A Detailed Look at Media Development

As we continue our two-part series detailing the steps of the eLearning development process, we shift our focus to media development.

Proceed with Caution

If you fail to get storyboard approval during step 13 and move into media development, you are pushing your luck.
But first, a word of caution… Remember in part 1, we covered the first 13 steps of the eLearning development process. If you fail to get storyboard approval during step 13 and move into media development, you are pushing your luck.
If you fail to get storyboard approval during step 13 and move into media development, you are pushing your luck.

Key subject matter experts and project influencers must reach a consensus that the storyboard is solid before it becomes the blueprint for media development. If these individuals bring new content and ideas to the table later in the process, incorporating them would likely require additional work and rework beyond the agreed upon financial scope. (Learn how to avoid scope creep by reading  “eLearning Scope Checklist for Realistic Quotes.”)

Only after the client approves the storyboard should the project advance to the steps of media development. Let’s pick up there.

Steps of the eLearning Development Process (Continued): Media Development

14) Mock-Ups and Voice Samples

The development team supplies mock-ups of key screens and voice over samples for review.

If the eLearning in development is a new product and not part of an existing set of courses, there may be a third deliverable at this point. The team may provide a sample shell eLearning course for review and testing.

15) Meeting with Client

The eLearning development team and client meet to discuss the mock-ups, voice over samples, and, if provided, the sample shell course. The goal is approval of these deliverables. However, it’s not unusual for the client to request some tweaks.

16) Kick-Off of eLearning Production

eLearning production begins. This step usually involves several people engaged in a flurry of activity, including:

  • Professional voice over recording
  • Voice audio editing
  • Timing of closed captions
  • Music selection and music audio editing
  • Graphic design
  • Illustration
  • Stock art research and manipulation
  • Custom photography and/or video shoots
  • Animation and motion graphic work
  • Internal meeting between instructional designer and producers
  • Production in an eLearning format

17) Internal Quality Assurance Reviews and Edits

During this critical step, the instructional designer performs several key tasks:

  • Reviews the finished work
  • Documents any issues and provides the development team this feedback
  • Reviews the updated version to ensure the expectations set in the storyboard are met in the produced piece

Remember, this happens before it ever goes to the client for review.

Unfortunately, this step often gets skipped by novice eLearning developers and those developing eLearning internally. What are the consequences of bypassing this step? Subject matter experts are left to catch technical errors and accidental omissions. That’s is a poor use of their time and a distraction from what their primary focus to review the effectiveness of the training.

Even if you are writing, developing, and publishing a course as a one-person show, we encourage you to enlist the help of a good quality assurance review resource. Other eLearning development companies sometimes contract their reviews to the Left Brain Media team because of our reputation for having such a good quality assurance process.

Not only can this step save the subject matter experts’ time; it also saves the eLearning development team’s time.
Not only can this step save the subject matter experts’ time; it also saves the eLearning development team’s time. How? If the instructional designer catches an error, glitch, or something that comes across in a way not intended by the storyboard, the team can think of a fix that is easy to implement and best addresses the problem. But if the issue makes its way to the eyes of the client’s subject matter experts and project influencers, things may not go as smoothly. They may come up with a less than elegant solution that is more time consuming and does not solve the problem nearly as well. The development team then has to gracefully talk the client out of a bad idea to fix an issue that should never have gotten to them in the first place.

So to sum up this step, you will save yourself time and trouble if you catch and fix problems before the client ever sees the produced piece.

18) Client Review

The development team posts the produced eLearning to a test server environment for client review. The team may also provide an online, preformatted document the client can populate with feedback. Our document includes a variety of fields that identify items like who is reporting the issue, the nature of the issue, as well as its location in the eLearning.

19) Review Meeting

The client review cycle is followed up by a review meeting between representatives from the development team and the client. Even if the client documented their feedback in the prior step and the changes are minor, it’s still a good idea for both parties to discuss the feedback and have an opportunity to clarify any item on the list before moving forward.

The goal of the meeting is to have a clear list of action items of what the development team needs to change in order to finalize the eLearning and make sure it’s in alignment with the approved storyboard.
The goal of the meeting is to have a clear list of action items of what the development team needs to change in order to finalize the eLearning and make sure it’s in alignment with the approved storyboard. These type of client requests are considered to be “in-scope feedback.”

What happens if the client wants to introduce new content or make some other change that is a departure from the approved storyboard? This may fall under the category of “out-of-scope feedback,” depending on the effort required to accommodate the request. If that’s the case, the develop team will need to estimate the work so the client can decide whether the change justifies the additional production cost or it’s best to stick to the original plan.

20) Feedback Implementation

The development team incorporates the agreed upon feedback into the eLearning program.

21) Internal Quality Assurance Review

The instructional designer performs another round of internal quality review checks to verify all items were addressed.

22) Client Review

The development team posts the updated eLearning to a test server environment. It’s now ready for client review.

We have heard horror stories of this step turning into multiple review cycles, which increases the length of the project and wastes valuable time. When Left Brain Media is working on a project, this step normally goes quickly. That’s because we take the time earlier in the process to document what is important to our clients. We follow up with quality assurance testing to make sure that’s what we deliver.

23) Final Review Meeting

Representatives from the development team meet once again with the client for final review and approval of the eLearning program.

We have a word of advice for those creating an eLearning course that’s to be delivered in multiple languages.
We have a word of advice for those creating an eLearning course that’s to be delivered in multiple languages. Some might think that once the storyboard is approved, it should be sent out for translation so that all of the different language versions can be produced simultaneously. Our experience tells us that is a mistake.

It is wise to wait until you have a fully produced and approved eLearning piece in the primary language before undertaking translation and production into other languages.

Why? Inevitably, even when the client thoroughly reviews and approves the storyboard, there are at least a couple of tweaks that need to be made during media development. It’s not so bad to make those couple of tweaks in just one version of the eLearning, get it finalized, and have a “clean” end product to leverage for the other languages. But if you are developing the eLearning in all of the courses at the same time and discover even just one sentence of narration needs to be reworded, the effort snowballs. The more languages you are dealing with, the more translators and voice talents you must coordinate with for rework; not to mention the extra work of the audio editors and the rest of the production team.

24) Delivery of Final Course

In most cases, this step requires the development team to create a final SCORM file of the eLearning and test it before providing it to the client.

The Timeframe of the eLearning Development Process

Once there is an approved storyboard, we find media development to final delivery usually takes about four to six weeks. It depends, in part, on how long the client needs for each review cycle, the length and complexity of the eLearning, etc.

That being said, Left Brain Media has, at times, transformed an approved storyboard into fully produced eLearning in just a few days.

We know the process because we live it every day and leverage it to deliver solutions for our clients.
We know the process because we live it every day and leverage it to deliver solutions for our clients.

By partnering with a competent team, you benefit from their experience in streamlining the many steps of eLearning development. But if you choose the wrong partner, the result can be costly delays with steps being repeated.

As mentioned in part 1 of this series, the traditional approach to eLearning development is not right for every situation. There are alternative approaches that offer a more rapid delivery cycle; they are not right for every situation either.

Avoiding a Critical Mistake

For this type of eLearning development, one of the worst things you can do is add more cooks to the kitchen as the project progresses. Why is that mistake so tempting? As the project matures, it becomes more visual. That makes it easier for new people to see progress and weigh in with ideas. So to reiterate, you need to get all your key subject matter experts and approvers involved from the beginning.  Bringing in an influential opinion after the first round of eLearning is created can lead to a lot of great ideas coming way too late in the game, especially if you want to meet the project budget and timeline.

Resources You Need for Your Project’s Success

Whether you need a professional team to navigate all of these steps or a la carte resources to help you through a bottleneck phase, Left Brain Media is ready to partner with you. We put an end to mindless media by creating solutions to meet your unique training needs. Contact us to learn more about our custom eLearning courses, eLearning games, creative video production, and dynamic websites and applications.

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